Former NSW Origin coach Graham Murray took the Maitland Pickers through their paces at training last night.
Murray, in his role as Newcastle Knights director of coaching, was at Maitland Sportsground to deliver his knowledge and expertise of the game first hand to the Pickers.
The experienced mentor has been in and around the Maitland area for much of the season, including school visits and junior club days, as part of his duties with the Knights after answering the call from Wayne Bennett late last year.
In the lead-up to last night’s training session, Pickers coach Ron Griffiths said the opportunity to spend time alongside Murray provided those at the grass roots rugby league club with a chance to learn from one of the best in the business.
“He [Murray] offered his services to clubs whenever at the start of the season and why wouldn’t you take it up? He is someone who has coached at that high level, including State of Origin,” Griffiths said.
“I spoke to him on the phone yesterday and the way he was explaining different things I even learned some things as a coach, so I’m sure he will be just as good in person.”
Murray designed the specialised session, which targeted areas identified as weak from the Pickers’ opening three matches of the Newcastle Rugby League season.
“We have given him some things that we want to work on from the first three games and he has planned a session around that,” Griffiths said.
“One was ruck recognition, another was forwards in traffic and the last was line speed.”
About 30 players were to be involved in the training session, with players outside the top grade being rewarded for impressive showings so far in 2012.
“This is not all about the top 17,” Griffiths said.
“There are a few players who have earned a spot tonight and will be pressing claims to be picked up the grades in the future.”
In other Pickers news, two of last year’s grand final winning team have indicated signs of a possible return.
Forwards Adam Withyman and Glen Paton have not played with the Pickers this season, but look likely to come back by the end of the month.
Withyman, a Newcastle representative in 2011, has been in contract negotiations since the start of the season, while Paton has returned to the Pickers camp despite announcing his retirement after last year’s premiership success.
“Adam [Withyman] has made contact and I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays soon, but we’ll just wait and see what unfolds there,” Griffiths said.
“As for Glen [Paton], I’m not sure if he will play or not but he must be keen because he turned up at training last Tuesday night when it was reasonably cold and it wasn’t an easy session – and he was there at the game on the weekend.”
The Pickers tackle Central Newcastle at home on Saturday while the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs travel to Morry Breen Oval and meet Wyong on the same day. Kick off is at 3pm.
* See Friday’s Mercury for more Newcastle Rugby League news and check out the website for a photo gallery of the Pickers in action on the weekend against the Port Stephens Sharks.